Monday, August 2, 2010

Watch Grass Grow

Optimist’s Perspective

My travels and work have taken me away from sharing my thoughts with you for the past couple of months.  I apologize for that, and add that this may have been for the best as I’ve formulated new and refined other ideas that I’ll share with you over the coming months

The first is this here: When it comes to starting a new business, or a new department, or a new job we should all learn to watch grass grow.  This is really a lesson I learned because I literally had to watch grass grow over a three month period. 

2010.08.02_Grass

When we purchased our home a few years back, our yard that had some draught resistant plants (translation: weeds) and a dried out grass area.  We originally thought we’d have our yard redone by professionals.  We were thinking of removing all grass and just having hardscape with shaped sitting walls, outdoor bar/grill and a fire pit.  Three contractors’ estimates and an equal number of months later, we realized it was out of our then budget. 

The second thought was to delay to hardscape and lay down some sod so that our dog wouldn’t drag mud into the house.  I priced it out and for what little space we had to lay down, I thought the price was ridiculous.  By this time, almost two years had passed. 

What did we do?  We waited!!! That is, we waited for the new year and new ideas to come. 

So, as a last ditch effort, we decided to reseed the yard ourselves.  We were going to get our hands dirty.  Well, our gloves at least! 

I looked up what it took to use seeds to grow grass.  I was surprised by how easy it seemed.  The basic steps were these:

  1. De-Weed: Get rid of all the weeds, and I mean all of them by killing them for a few weeks through spraying weed killers, waiting two weeks, spraying some more and waiting another two weeks.
  2. Prepare the Foundation: Resurface the dirt so that it’s not too compacted and the soil is aerated, ready to hide all new seeds.
  3. Level the ground: This is to insure the ground is smooth for aesthetics, easy of use (don’t want the dog to trip as it’s running, doing figure eights) as well as for proper drainage.
  4. Lay Down Nourishment: Spread grass starter mix, which is basically fertilizer.
  5. Spread the Seeds: Evenly spread the seeds. You don’t want concentration in some areas and bare ground elsewhere. This is really to have a consistent look across the yard.
  6. Place Topsoil: Cover the seeds with topsoil to protect the seeds from blowing off or being easily eaten by birds.
  7. Water Daily: Water every day for two weeks. (This is not cheap in the draught-ridden California.)

The steps seemed easy enough, though they required time and some sweat equity.  Nevertheless, we did it. 

Then we waited for the grass to grow.

And waited.

And waited.

Our efforts had no effect, that is until warmer days hit.  Our Spring planting may have been too early and we needed some warmer Summer weather. 

2010.08.02_PatchyGrass Nonetheless, we had a lot of empty patches.  I was happy though.  At least we had something.  I was encouraged.  Another trip to the local hardware shop resulted in more seeds, fertilizer, and top soil to patch the empty spots. 

This time we got more grass in shorter time, but we still had patches.  So, we tried it a third time to fill in some remaining patches. 

Suffice it to say, this is an ongoing process, though no longer because we can’t fill the patches, but because our dog keeps creating new browned grass with her donations to the yard!  We love her for it, and it makes for some interesting stories, not to mention some needed Sunday afternoon exercise for me!

Aside from a short lesson in gardening, I realized this is exactly how businesses grow.  You start out with a clean canvas or a semi-filled one, but one that needs your constant attention and perseverance to see it come to fruition. 

Let’s look at the steps above and see how they apply to business:

  1. De-Weed: No different than your yard, you have to get rid of all the tangential ideas, products, people, places, and things that occupy your mind far longer than they should.  You need to get rid of everything that isn’t part of your core so that your business and personnel aren’t distracted by them. If you’re an innovative company, you’ll likely encounter some deep rooted ideas that you need to jettison.  Do it.  Don’t even think twice about it.
  2. Prepare the Foundation: In order to let ideas and your company grow, you certainly need a softened soil.  These are your people who’ll help support your business. Selection of the right people who have malleable tendencies is key.  You want personnel who not only buy into your ideas and help them grow, but add ideas of their own and require little to no supervision to carry out your vision.
  3. Level the ground: what applies to business here is  the idea of “drainage.”  You want to make clear to all of your employees what is your vision for the company, your products and services.  The concept here is simple: make sure they know what the company does and can easily respond to a customer and say, “we don’t do that here.”  You want the company to focus on only what leads to reaching its goals, not on any ancillary ideas or services that take away focus and energy from the vision.
  4. Lay Down Nourishment: The fertilizer for your business is all the resources you need.  Aside from the right personnel, it’s the training, tools, and people your employees need to get exposed to and easily have access to in order to be successful.  Pay top dollar for this so that you have the best “fertilizer” to feed your personnel’s and your ideas.
  5. Spread the Seeds: This is easy, right?  The seeds for your company are your ideas and vision.  Spread them far and wide.  Make sure people know what’s your cause.  Let not only your employees know, but everyone outside of your company too.  You’ll be surprised how sharing your ideas and vision can attract the right people from your network and industry.
  6. 2010.08.02_Grass_Keep_Off Place Topsoil: Protection is key when you’re a startup.  I don’t suggest complete secrecy.  I think you loose collaborative opportunities, even with competitors that way.  You have to accept that you’ll lose some of your products or services to competitors, but if you’ve done all of the other prep work and spread your ideas far and wide, some loss won’t hurt you.  Nevertheless, you’ll need to take steps to prevent would-be competitors to steal and replicate your core concepts and personnel.
  7. Water Daily: This is standard care and feeding that comes in the way of communicating with your team daily to see what doors need to be opened, what additional resources found and made available, what roadblocks removed.  It’s especially important to do this everyday in the early days so that you can gather momentum toward your company goals.
  8. P2010.08.02_PatienceBankatiently Observe and Remediate: This wasn’t part of the directly prescribed process for planting seeds, but it is indirectly.  You have to practice patience and work through mistakes, setbacks, and overall lessons that help you hone in on what it is you need to improve or change in order to insure your company’s success.  You must act as the patient scientist who constantly measures and corrects to insure the results sought are achieved.  Also remember, don’t beat yourself or anyone else over the head for trying something new.  The mistakes that result from these trials and errors are the keys to your success. 

That last point is very important: be patient and replant those seeds.  Don’t loose hope at whatever you’re trying to achieve, even if you don’t get it exactly the way you want the first time, nothing and nobody can prevent you from trying your hands again and putting your newly earned experience to proper use.

What Do You Think?

Feel free to share your comments below.

 

Photo Credit: aussiegall, Tony Buser, Editor B, Todd Huffman